Smartwatch screen too small? Use your arm as a virtual touch interface
Touchscreens make modern mobile tech possible, and while they work great on phones and tablets, usability understandably takes a hit when we shrink screen sizes down to the smartwatch level. Sure, basic gestures and tap interactions still work, but with a screen that small, it's tricky to do anything more detailed. If only we had a larger surface to work with! One group of researchers may have cracked that nut, as they share their system that effectively uses your whole arm as a touch-sensitive panel for your smartwatch.
That opens the door for some smartwatch functionality that would otherwise be really tricky on a tiny watch touchscreen. For instance, we've seen keyboard software that runs on a smartwatch, but it's still a tight squeeze. If users are instead able to swipe-type words on an imaginary keyboard extending across their arm (maybe with on-screen feedback to show them where they're pointing), text composition on a smartwatch starts becoming a lot more viable. You could even trace-out individual letter shapes, using your arm like a pad of paper.
Even regular gesture interactions can be a lot more natural when we're doing them on a scale that feels familiar from our smartphone usage, rather than shrunken-down to smartwatch size; instead of pinching to zoom right on a watch's screen, you could instead perform the same gesture on the back of your hand.
The technology is flexible enough to work through clothing, so this isn't only a solution practical in warmer months. It's not without its limitations, though, not the least of which is power consumption, but it sure makes for a neat proof of concept.
source: Zhang, Zhuo, Laput, Harrison via The Verge